Top Cop Thrives in WA

Believing that New Zealand’s top police post would never be his, he moved on. Six months later, the job was on the market again. Bad timing, or was it?
Matthews resigned as New Zealand’s deputy police commissioner almost two years ago, to become police commissioner in Western Australia, the world’s largest single police jurisdiction, an area of 2.5 million square kilometres.
He admits that he had his eye on the police commissioner’s job here in New Zealand. When it went to Peter Doone, Matthews reasoned that given their ages, he probably wouldn’t get another shot at the top job.
He remained deputy for four years but still hankered to round off his career as leader.
“Being deputy is not the same as being the CEO, at the end of the day you’re implementing what the chief executive decides. You can have input into that but it’s not the same. It’s not your service, it’s someone else’s.”
In 1996, he was approached to put his name in the ring for the top job in New South Wales, and was short listed.
“I suppose with the New South Wales situation I started to think ?I could work for another country, and I could work for another police agency’.”
But New South Wales wasn’t to be either. So Matthews worked out plan of retiring at 55 years and doing consultancy work, probably overseas.
The call for the West Australia post, based in Perth, unsettled him. On the one hand he was loathe to go through the whole exercise again, on the other hand he knew this was the chance to be commissioner – chance he wouldn’t get in New Zealand.
Once he’d researched the service in WA, read about its development programmes, and its challenges, Matthews became enthusiastic about how he could make difference, and accepted the job.
“The irony was that with all the rationale I’d used in that decision-making process, six months later Peter Doone – as result of minor although significant error of judgement – resigned as police commissioner.
“By being there I’d have had chance of being commissioner – although there were no guarantees.”
But of course it was too late. The die was cast. In retrospect, Matthews is happier the way things have turned out. “It’s been hard but satisfying and rewarding job. Rewarding in the sense of leading an organisation and sense of rounding out career,” he adds.
The sheer size and scale of the WA region was the most noticeable difference. Where travel in New Zealand was usually by vehicle from station to station, in WA Matthews is now regular flier around the state, visiting the outlying branches that make up the 160 police stations.
Generally however the differences between WA and NZ policing weren’t great. Afterall, Matthews wasn’t rookie policeman. He’s career cop with law degree, is barrister and solicitor, and has an MBA degree.
“I don’t think I had great difficulty coming to policing in WA,” he grins confidently.
“There’s about an 85 percent fit between the way policing is done in New Zealand, and the issues of policing and what the issues are and the way it’s done here.
“So in that sense, there was only about 15 percent adjustment to make. And there are parallels even in that 15 percent. In the way of delivering services, such as accounting etc.”

The Privy Council clearly represents formidable concentration of judicial firepower. But should law-making as Robertson advocates be simply dry, technical exercise, divorced from the social, cultural and political context of the country where that law is to be applied? If you accept the views of Bruce Grey, partner with law firm Bell Gully, the answer is no. An advocate of scrapping appeals to the Privy Council, Grey believes the law should recognise points of major economic difference between one country and another. Comparing our intermediate Court of Appeal with final court of appeal, (like the Privy Council) simply isn’t comparing apples with apples, says Grey. For starters, the sheer volume of cases heard varies dramatically.
Last year the New Zealand Court of Appeal heard 508 cases compared with the Privy Council’s 51 (another 60 in the House of Lords). Even by comparison with our closest neighbour, Australia (which swapped appeals to the Privy Council for its own High Court), our Court of Appeal is overworked. In fact, the High Court of Australia heard 59 cases last year, while US and Canadian Supreme courts heard 82 and 73 cases respectively.
As an intermediate court, our Court of Appeal spends the first half of every month on the “volume work”. It then spends the remaining two weeks checking for mistakes or misunderstandings over points of law or oversights within key documents. By comparison, the Privy Council operates in more considered way, monitoring the development of the law over time. This is one of the reasons why Robertson claims it’s capable of reaching better quality judgments.
Meantime, Grey remains sceptical. He says until it’s put to the test, there’s no short answer to whether we can produce judges capable of doing similar job (to the Privy Council). “But our most senior judges should be tuned to the needs of New Zealanders. The proposition that business needs are universal is flawed. What business also needs from the court system is faster and cheaper access to final court of appeal.”
On this point there’s total agreement. It can take year or more to have case heard by the Privy Council. Despite calls to the contrary, the cost and time involved in taking case to the Privy Council makes most companies, even large corporates, think twice. case in point, Grey suspects some of the former wranglings between Clear and Telecom (over number portability) would have gone to the Privy Council had cost not been an issue.

The Privy Council clearly represents formidable concentration of judicial firepower. But should law-making as Robertson advocates be simply dry, technical exercise, divorced from the social, cultural and political context of the country where that law is to be applied? If you accept the views of Bruce Grey, partner with law firm Bell Gully, the answer is no. An advocate of scrapping appeals to the Privy Council, Grey believes the law should recognise points of major economic difference between one country and another. Comparing our intermediate Court of Appeal with final court of appeal, (like the Privy Council) simply isn’t comparing apples with apples, says Grey. For starters, the sheer volume of cases heard varies dramatically.
Last year the New Zealand Court of Appeal heard 508 cases compared with the Privy Council’s 51 (another 60 in the House of Lords). Even by comparison with our closest neighbour, Australia (which swapped appeals to the Privy Council for its own High Court), our Court of Appeal is overworked. In fact, the High Court of Australia heard 59 cases last year, while US and Canadian Supreme courts heard 82 and 73 cases respectively.
As an intermediate court, our Court of Appeal spends the first half of every month on the “volume work”. It then spends the remaining two weeks checking for mistakes or misunderstandings over points of law or oversights within key documents. By comparison, the Privy Council operates in more considered way, monitoring the development of the law over time. This is one of the reasons why Robertson claims it’s capable of reaching better quality judgments.
Meantime, Grey remains sceptical. He says until it’s put to the test, there’s no short answer to whether we can produce judges capable of doing similar job (to the Privy Council). “But our most senior judges should be tuned to the needs of New Zealanders. The proposition that business needs are universal is flawed. What business also needs from the court system is faster and cheaper access to final court of appeal.”
On this point there’s total agreement. It can take year or more to have case heard by the Privy Council. Despite calls to the contrary, the cost and

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